Guest Blogger Sir Boulevard: Agents of Yesterday Review

Lootcritter here:  SirBoulevard is back with his take on the third expansion in Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday.  Not to worry – his series on the state of the game is very much alive in this post.

SirBoulevard is a prolific foundry author, co-leader of the E.W.O.C. fleet, he’s a guy who thinks he can build a canon build and DPS at the same time. We might be concerned about his mental health, but luckily the voices in his head have some good ideas.

-Hl81Mc9

Agents of Yesterday Review

 

Let me preface this review with an update: my state of the game series is not done yet, but thanks to real life concerns and the fact I wasn’t able to get my last part out in time, I’ll be renaming it to “AoY: State of the Game” instead of “Only Six Missions.” Obviously, that’s not an accurate title and after release its not fair to keep using it. But before we return to that, let’s take an accounting of Agents of Yesterday as a whole. Spoilers ahead!

Agents of Yesterday launched on July 6th, and is Star Trek Online’s third expansion. This expansion adds a Star Trek The Original Series starting experience for Federation captains, the continuation of the Temporal Cold War storyline, and the introduction of new queues, ships, and a new Delta Recruit-like promotion to the game.

TOS Characters

For all intents and purposes, the Original Series character storyline serves as an extended tutorial for Federation Captains. You start as the first officer onboard a Pioneer-class frigate under the Command of Vic Mignona’s Captain (and later Admiral) Garrett. After a tutorial that serves as a sequel to “The Galileo Seven” from The Original Series, and reintroducing the Klingon Kor and the mysterious Crewman “Hunter,” as well as cameos from virtually all of the Enterprise crew. This story follows up on about 5 stories from the original series as well as some arc welding from Enterprise and Deep Space Nine. Ultimately, this leads the character into being recruited into the Temporal Agencies of Starfleet and being moved into 2409 to continue their journey after they are “killed” in the Battle of Caleb.

Overall, the art direction, story work, and virtually all of the TOS-faction exclusive content (as well as cross-faction content that seems more tailored for these characters like the “Yesterday’s War” arc), are near perfect. I do have the following issues with it, however.

First, we leave the 23rd Century too early. The tutorial starting mission drops off at Earth Spacedock at Level 5. By Level 10, we’re kicked into the 25th Century. While we go back in future missions, it still feels like we’re not truly 23rd Century Captains, and much of the dialogue we were told was going to change for TOS characters wasn’t. A particularly funny moment is being told we’ve faced the Borg to gain our command. That’s the other Federation captain, Commander Jarok.

In addition, it’s very difficult to acquire 23rd Century gear, so much so, I’ve created a “23rd Century Black Market Vendor” alt just to send proper gear forward for sale.  Particularly noteworthy is that 23rd Century Boff manuals are Bind to Character and you cannot acquire them after you leave the 23rd Century. Particularly rough since they’re (a) sold for EC those characters have a hard time acquiring in that century without using the Account bank on our ship interiors to fund them, and (b) are actually better looking than the 25th Century version.

In fact, that last point particularly frustrates me, because we’ve talked about SFX spam in STO for a while, and the 23rd Century special effects are actually SPECTACULAR. They’re not overly showy, they get the job done, and they’re just obvious enough. Of particular note are scanning beams that point a direction: these are so much better than the 25th Century version. Cryptic, please adopt these stylings for all characters in the future. It just proves simpler is sometimes better.

My last complaint is with whom is the villain of the TOS-exclusive arc: Kor. This role would have been much better filled by B’Vat. First, you can’t get acting for Kor right because his actor is dead. Second, we know B’Vat joined forces with the Nah’kuhl, a fact I know you know because one of the temporal probes mentioned the Nah’kuhl switched from Kor to B’Vat. You just had to voice a ton of B’Vat’s storyline, make HIM the 23rd Century Villain, and he thinks he killed us, then we show up in 2409 and ruin his plot! It’s so much better and personal and does what STO does best: its own thing. Plus we already saw 23rd Century B’Vat once, it would be a wonderful full circle experience: he met us in Past Imperfect, told us to kill him in the future, and then becomes our nemesis for two centuries starting the AoY arc. It’s a great opportunity and fits the time travel arcs. Too bad you squandered it, and really, I mean this was a grand opportunity squandered for fanservice.

As far as the end-game cross-faction arc goes, I am glad the Time Travel stuff is coming to an end. Star Trek never really handles it well, and it causes the game’s focus on the 25th Century politics and storylines to go out the window. That said, I am concerned that our current big bad has been foiled so quickly. Don’t get me wrong, they left the door open for Leeta to take over that role, but I really don’t want her to. Part of the reason the Iconian War is so reviled is because the Iconian conflict’s prelude kept us interested in the game long after it should have become irrelevant, especially during the early Atari years when the game was suffocating under budget cuts. Now, it did go on too long and set up impossible standards, but STO definitely needs an undercurrent villain we can’t beat with phasers and photon torpedoes. I’ll discuss this more in a future state of the game piece, but I bring it up here because the story ends and STO is back to the open world of opportunities that the end of the Iconian War brought with it as well as the lack of focus that comes with those open opportunities as well.

Overall, though, I absolutely adored playing as a TOS character and I love the special effects, the encounter with the Gorn, the Babel mission, the TOS ships. It was well done and the fanservice is on the screen. It just needed a tiny bit of that fanservice drawn back.

TOS Character Score: B+

Audio and Visual

I have to ask the question: who did you guys hire to do the music for Agents of Yesterday? Was it Kevin Manthei again? It sounded so perfect to the series. He even redid (its not the original) the Doomsday Machine cue (which I wish had been added to the existing Doomsday Machine mission). The new music was great and we need more of that.

Like always, special effects were top notch, but the audio and visuals were absolutely perfect. The minimalist style fits STO like a glove, and the audio effects were perfect. You also turned down the affectionately named “Blue Screecher” TOS phasers to something tolerable for human ears.

The effects on the Kelvin Verse stuff were exquisitely programmed as well. Having the explosions from those phasers recognize shields versus hull was incredible.

So far, my only issue has been with bugs. We were promised access to TOS-era body parts for the founders of the federation and Gorn as well as Janice Rand’s hairstyle for non-TOS characters. Many of these are missing. I know they’re known issues, but when the Gorn options are one of the only things for Klingons players, it’s not a small omission.

Overall Score: A-

Ships of the (Time)Line

Overall, there hasn’t been a single ship added in Agents of Yesterday that was not spectacularly designed and made. The TOS-era ships were spot on, the 26th Century ships continue the look of the Enterprise-J in a less extreme fashion, the 31st Century ships seemed to reflect the lack of faction segregation, and the Kelvin Verse ships wowed me so hard, I’m trying hard to get three of them.

Overall, the ship team (and Tacofangs for the Enterprise-J NPC) did their best work to date, but I still have some bones to pick.

First, new Gorn ships from TOS were created, I think these should be made available as C-store purchases to Klingon characters. Same thing with the Orion ship from the remastered Journey to Babel, which also appears. We’ve needed new Non-Klingon KDF player ships for a while, give them some love as well. In addition, don’t take that to mean don’t add the new D-5 Raptors or D-10 Heavy Battlecruisers either. Those would be great additions to the Klingon fleet, and would alleviate the feeling that they were alienated with this expansion (which they were). Also, I saw a Romulan ship early on tribble that looked like a half-way between a T’Liss and a D’D. It was removed part way through the patches but it was a great looking ship that reminded me of the Garuda-class from Starfleet Academy. Add that and the Romulan Krenn D-7 for them as well.

I also have an issue with the Kelvin ships. Not that the ships themselves were added but that several features that had been requested by the player base are exclusive to these lockbox ships. The easiest to get is the Vegeneance’s console which is broadside phaser beam/cannons/whateverwerecallingtheKelvinPhasers. At 150 Million EC for non-FEDs and 300 EC or 900 Lobi for Federation, it’s not ridiculous, but pricey to get access to a pretty good ability.

However, I’m downright pissed about the D4x and the T’Laru. The D4x gives us the much requested full pilot Bird of Prey to Klingons and the full carrier Romulan Warbird to Rommies. We’ve asked for both of these for a long time, and they’re now in two of the rarest Lockbox ships ever. The D4x in particular is frustrating since many players (myself included) had asked that the T6 version of the B’rel, the Kor, get pilot maneuvers as it was an atmospheric ship. Raiders suffer hard from being fragile and pilot maneuvers helps tremendously in this regard. As of right now, on July 9th, this ship is the rarest ship in-game next to the Tuffli, and only because the Tuffli is discontinued. These ships occupy the top of the exchange price range and there are between 10 and NONE available at any given moment.

In addition, the T’Laru, being the only true Romulan Carrier, also has the best pets available: the Kelvin Scorpions. Luckily, there are far more of them, but dang, these two ships are now more sought after than the long touted T6 Connie we just got. All I can ask for, Cryptic, is to see Prime Timeline versions with these ship’s capabilities added to the C-store. Pilot Raiders and Full Rommie Carriers were long overdue, and it’s sad to see them gated like this. If a C-store alternative were around, I’d have given you guys 100% on this, however…

Overall Score: B

Temporal Recruits

I can pretty much sum up my experiences as thus: rewards are great, gameplay is a slog and is unfun.

The probe hunting is tedious as hell, and the fact their locations are randomized makes it very hard and unfair. It feels like an artificial attempt to keep us in-game longer. If you need to do this to keep us in game longer, you need to reevaluate the entire game and find out why retention is so low. In addition, some of the locations are not obvious and on launch day, I was playing on my partner’s very old laptop at lowest settings and couldn’t find one of the probes on P’Jem despite looking for an hour. It partially didn’t render, probably because his computer was overheating from playing that long (and I won’t hold that against Cryptic), but I had to get help from Cryptic Spartan at one point (thanks, man!). The location the probe had spawned was behind a tree, behind a building, behind where I beamed in and away from the mission objectives. I doubt many people would have found that without help.

I do really like the rewards for the big payoffs, but stuff like expecting us to fill 3 Primary Specializations to unlock a very potent trait was excessive. It is doable, but it is going to hurt these characters short term since Commando is still a very useful ground spec for day to day use. This is another “keep players in-game!” move, which frankly, means we have to abandon our main characters for this new alt for months.

Drop the tedium and it would be much better.

Overall Score: D

Final Thoughts

Agents of Yesterday is a much needed step up from Delta Rising. Everything is moving in the right direction, the content is (mostly) fun, and the story is engaging. However, there are several flaws that prevent me from giving an A to this expansion. The Klingons and Romulan players needed some love, even if it was just ships, or ONE mission for them. The Federation, at this point, needs a break from content in a game that’s already too Fed-heavy. While I don’t have a problem with the Tier 6 Connie being a Lockbox ship (we’d known for years that was the best we could hope for), I do object that two of the best KDF/Romulan ships that had been requested as well are in the same category and far rarer due to the changes made to the Lockbox system.

As a love letter to The Original Series of Star Trek, this expansion is that. The love is on the screen from faithful recreations of Vasquez Rocks to cheesy special effects that might give you an epileptic seizure. The game itself feels perfectly suited to the Original Series, and that’s why I almost with STO was competing with itself, because Cryptic’s design philosophy so totally fits the TOS era like a glove.

Overall Score: B

000-sirb

7 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Sir Boulevard: Agents of Yesterday Review

  1. Here is my take on the expansion. Forget all of the PR. Forget the people on both sides who write essays to try to convince other people are right. Instead, let’s focus on the simple facts. The numbers. AOY consists of:

    12 missions
    2(about to be 2) PvE queues

    And that’s it. What about all the ships? Well, the thing is, you have to buy those. And Cryptic says their expansions are free. So if we take Cryptic at their word, then anything that is not free is not part of the expansion.

    So the above content is all that is part of the expansion, which Cryptic says is free. If you think 12 missions and 3 pve queues is a decent expansion, cool. If you don’t, that’s also cool. But those are the cold hard facts, without all the spin and justifications.

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  2. A couple of thoughts: Not sure I wasn’t facing a glitch, but when I played through the first ten levels I didn’t get much original series music during game play. Only in the tutorial did I hear the new score. The rest of the missions I heard the delta quadrant music, which actually kind of ruined my immersion.

    I’m not sure I really feel like playing through the temporal recruit missions to get all the rewards. As it is I play 5 toons ( 3 Feds each career, a Klingon and Rommie) pretty regularly, but the thought of adding more is pushing it…then to read about how long term this…. I think I’d just rather play my mains.

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  3. I’m a primary Romulan player with characters both red and kdf aligned. I’ve created and leveled a tos toon. I enjoyed the tos era content alot. I felt the tutorial was just as exceptionally well done as the one for Romulans. Brilliant and having the Star Trek Continues cast do voice over work for tos was just perfect. However after playing through the fed side of it all on the tos toon. I am dissapointed that we spend so little time in the era that the faction’s based in. and by level 15 felt I was no special snowflake of a faction just another fed drone. the novelty of tos as a faction was over with. the new tos ships for leveling up was really the only tos emmersive feel I had while grinding away to 60.

    The lack of access to 23rd century tos manuals and the fact that past level 10 all my boffs were normal 25th Century boffs not tos boffs. I was not and still do not feel compelled to playing this toon long term. I’ll play it to unlock the account rewards but after that, it’ll be an alt collecting dust in character select. while I continue with my Romulans.

    I also have to say I’m dissapointed in cryptic putting a full carrier in a lockbox. and all we get as a rom or kdf for new ships in the C store is a set of cross faction 3 pack ships with zero custumization options. while You went out and created the assets to the rom D-7 ships from the tos episode “The Enterprise Incident” . why the hell could you not have tossed us a bone and gave us that ship as a c store option ?.

    Same with all the new kdf ships. You showed the world your capable of designing and lncluding more kdf content ships. But deny them to the player base. It’s a joke and a slap in the face to those who play a non fed faction.

    This cross faction one ship model for all is a dangerous and lazy road by cryptic that does not inspire me to have faith that the rom and kdf factions will survive much longer with such lack of support from cryptic. It’s pretty clear cryptic is interested in only fed content. with everything else just treated as a NPC.

    If I was not a fan of the Tos Era , I wouldn’t even have bothered with this at all to be honest. So much missed oppertunites here it’s criminal.

    All I want to see for a season after AoY is a season dedicated to bug fixes. and for the love of tribbles please fix the SNR ( server not responding ) BS that’s been plaguing the game for months. If we can’t get that then I’d really love to have a feature episode that’s our captains working with Jim Kirk with Shatner voicing Kirk. that’d be one nice way to celebrate trek’s 50th.

    Overall I give this expansion a C- . It was decent but Cryptic could have done better And a hell of alot more then what they presented. Content wise this is a bad joke. AoY should have been as big as delta rising or as involved as the klingon war arc was. It just feels like this was a panic and rushed content that was not given near enough Quality assurance let alone testing. Least LoR was somewhat polished , amazing and really well done. I was expecting AoY to be least as much of an expansion as LoR. And Cryptic failed big time.

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  4. I really don’t get the love from people over this expansion. I found it underwhelming at best, and flat out broken at worst. I keep running into glitch after glitch, usually revolving around AI pathfinding, that doesn’t just hurt the game, but flat out makes some combat impossible. Worse, the TOS fanservice is just bad. Sure, I grew up watching TOS in syndication thanks to a Trekkie for a mom, but to literally lift recordings of audio from the show, shoehorn in one of Mr. Nimoy’s speeches done in the original game in a most unnatural way, and to throw around canon characters like Mr. Scott and Checkov is just insulting. This has done more to drive me AWAY from the game than to draw me into it.

    This is perhaps one of Crytpic’s biggest failures, falling only just shy of the abomination they turned Champions Online into.

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  5. I disagree on the idea of using B’Vat. Using B’Vat would ruin B’Vat’s story. Why? Cryptic established that Past!B’Vat was actually a reasonable guy. He remarks that his future self is utterly insane and wonders how he could possibly become like that. In TOS, Kor was pretty hardcore in terms of wanting to kill Kirk and destroy the Federation. Apparently he mellowed in his old age.

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